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Satellite bandwidth approved

An international organization approves radio bandwidth that will allow Teledesic to go forward with its satellite Internet access plans.

An international organization has approved radio bandwidth that will allow Teledesic to go forward with its plans to launch a network of satellites used to provide high-speed global Internet access.

The World Radio Conference allocated two 500-MHz bands of spectrum to be used for the type of low-orbit satellites that will make up Teledesic's system. The company, which plans to orbit an estimated 350 satellites in the next several years, said the same "paired bands" were approved by the Federal Communications Commission in March.

The international decision, made in Geneva, was the last regulatory procedure facing the company. Teledesic, which has the notable financial backing of Microsoft's Bill Gates and cellular phone mogul Craig McCaw, estimates that it will spend $9 billion on its "Internet-in-the-Sky" project, which it says will provide links of up to 30 megabits per second for corporate clients.

Teledesic has led the way in next-generation wireless communications, presenting a major threat to satellite companies using existing technology, such as Hughes Network Systems and Motorola.

Teledesic's satellites would orbit much closer to Earth than its predecessors, allowing for two-way Internet and other communications without the lag time created by the long distances of high-altitude devices. But some analysts question whether the company can realize its enormously expensive plans before cable lines and other land-based systems capture the market for high-speed Internet access.

But the Kirkland, Washington-based company is confident that its technology will eventually win out.

"Combined with our FCC license, this gives us all we need to move forward aggressively to build our system," Teledesic president Russell Daggatt said in a statement today. "The international spectrum allocation adopted at this year's conference concludes the effort we began at the World Radio Conference in 1995."

At that time, the international group approved 400 MHz for low-orbit satellite communications but reserved the remaining 100 MHz until this year's meeting, which officially ended today.